Straight from the get-go, a theme that I saw that persisted throughout the book was Lizet’s identity. She was constantly facing this question of, “where is home,” and, “who am I,” as she navigated her life at school and back “home” in Miami. She was too Cuban at school, and not Cuban enough in Miami. When she first came home from college to when her relatives were all talking about the way she looked, I felt that she was trying to decide whether or not she still fit the mold that she did before her experiences. I also feel like Lizet was experiencing imposter syndrome; she was doubting her ability to be at Rawlings College because she wasn’t doing well at chemistry and she accidentally plagiarized. She was othered by her own roommate when she was called, “my Cuban roommate,” instead of by her name. When Lizet met with the academic integrity committee, I felt like their reactions emphasized what she was already feeling… was she deserving of a spot at that school? Each visit that Lizet made back to Miami made her feel further and further removed from the life that she lived prior to going to college, which is understandable. Even for me, a student moving to school an hour away from home, it’s weird going back, so I cannot imagine this distance and difference in culture that Lizet was immersed in.
This book reenforced the main idea of many of the books that we have read over this past semester: home is a space that may not be comfortable and may be with strangers, but it’s home. This idea of assimilation that was noted in this book is one that has been proven to not fully exist. Despite that, families still try to assimilate or resist assimilation. In Lizet’s case, she experienced people telling her to do both, leading her to be fairly confused in where she stood as a person from an immigrant family, but also a woman in higher education.
Completely interwoven with this theme of finding identity was the devastation that sometimes goes hand-in-hand with immigration. Especially from an island like Cuba being so close to the U.S., I feel like more chances were taken by those wanting to come to the United States. In this case, Ariel Hernandez was a young child who arrived on a boat and throughout the story was finding a space in the new world he was living in.